I’ve found that photography is an endeavor that is aided by taking lots of pictures. Though it seems that your favorite photographer produces nothing but beautiful artistic shots, you don’t get to see the hundreds of shots that are left on the cutting room floor (or the virtual trash can on your computer’s desktop) for every finished image. It used to be that the cost of film and developing was preventative to this idea for the average person, but we are beyond that now. If you want to try a lot of stuff, there’s no real cost barrier. It’s all about time now.

If you put in the time, you are bound to find a few winners. The key is to stop long enough to think about what worked and what didn’t.

Making A Waterfall Image



One thing that most people never consider is that the final image photographers post, print, or otherwise show to the public is usually not the only version that was made.

Sometimes, everything lines up for the first press of the shutter, but most often (for me at least) I try a few out to test the light, composition, shutter speed or any number of other parameters. Man, I can't even imagine how long it would take to see improvement in my technique back in the film days. Thank you, digital photography.

Speaking of which...A couple days ago, I picked up some film images that I had developed at Blue Moon Camera and machine and one of the frames was from a trip to Silver Creek Falls back in February. I posted a digital image from this session a couple days after shooting it, but the film version prompted me to revisit the pile of images from that day.

I haven't included them all, but I did think it would be interesting to post a few to show the progression and give you a little insight into how I arrived at my final image.



Image A, is the final one I put out there a few months ago, but it wasn't the first photo I made that day. In fact, you can see that I tried slightly different composition first.

B, is a portrait oriented version, with very similar development work done in Lightroom 5. It's a 5 second exposure, with the aperture right in the middle at F/10/. I used a neutral density filter to smooth out the motion of the water.

You can see that I tried a shorter exposure in example C, but it just didn't have the right feel.


You may notice that both C and D have a similar field of vision. I used the Sony 24mm Zeiss F/1.8 which is a beautifully sharp and colorful lens even at the corners of the frame. I really wanted to use this lens as it's easily the best one I own.

I couldn't quite get the compostion that I was looking for so I tried switching to a portrait orientation, but it just didn't feel quite right. After messing around for a few minutes with an image that felt somehow incomplete I finally decided that the image I was looking for would need a wider angle to capture more of the foreground detail from the tree in the water. Unfortunately, I was standing on a bridge which prevented the obvious move of stepping back a few paces.

I switched to the Sony 18-55mm Kit zoom to get a little more action and foreground elements into the frame. Though it isn't as sharp, this wider angle field was what I needed to capture the feel of being there. (Side note- maybe there's the excuse to start looking at nicer wide angle lens).

After a few months, I have to say that there is a really great quality and a pop in the details and the foreground of the portrait/vertical oriented version. I didn't see it at first, but it has really grown on me. Maybe I should try a print.





Finally, after I was pretty sure I had the shot I'd come looking for, I switched camera bodies to record the scene on film. Image E below- was made with my Olympus OM1, with a 28mm, f/3.5 lens at 1 second exposure, f/16 and Kodak Ektar 100 film. It was processed and scanned by Blue Moon camera.

The color is far more subdued than even the RAW files from the Sony, but there is a different sort of beauty that I really love.

I would've tried for a longer exposure, but forgot my cable release at home.



It's Not About the Gear

Quick Note: If you are looking for more information about custom controls, Lenses and tips for the Sony NEX series, take a look here for my guides, reviews and links.

I've been listening to a new (to me at least) Podcast called On Taking Pictures. It's cohosted by a couple of really entertaining guys named Jeffrey Saddoris and Bill Wadman.

First of all, I really recommend it. Second, they have a recurring theme that I need to hear. Taking great photos is not about the gear. I don't need the latest piece of new tech to make better images. I need to take more pictures. That's the main reason that I started my 365 Project this past October.

Of the many friends I'd call photographers, I can only think of a couple that aren't really into gear. I also know of quite a few people who are really into camera gear, but don't actually take many pictures. They own a nice camera as just one more gadget.

In other words, the gear thing is prevalent among us, but remembering that it's not about the gear is not.

Good reminder.

How I Saw or How I Remember-Cameras vs Eyes

Long before I started making photos with a "real" camera, I had ideas about what it is that makes a great photo. With technical knowledge, skills and practice, just what it is has become clearer.

I read a fantastic article in Petapixel a couple weeks ago about how alike and how different cameras are from human sight.

In reality (and this is very obvious) human vision is video, not photography. Even when staring at a photograph, the brain is taking multiple ‘snapshots’ as it moves the center of focus over the picture, stacking and assembling them into the final image we perceive. Look at a photograph for a few minutes and you’ll realize that subconsciously your eye has drifted over the picture, getting an overview of the image, focusing in on details here and there and, after a few seconds, realizing some things about it that weren’t obvious at first glance.

When I was using an iPhone as my primary (only) camera, I was pretty liberal with the effects processing. At the time, I couldn't say pecisely why I sometimes preferred a little extra saturation, or a roll back on the highlights, a bit of extra contrast. I was just trying to have the photo represent my memory of the scene.

Over this past year, I've been using my Sony camera to memorialize more of these moments. I have found this camera more capable of capturing the raw image, but I was thinking that because of the higher quality, these images would rarely need processing.

I was wrong.

While I'm so much happier with the quality, the sharpness, and the detail in these images, they need attention too. It is pretty rare that I post or save anything in my "finished" file without at least a couple small curve or exposure adjustments. In fact, I'm far more religious about my workflow now than I ever was before.

Why is that?

I didn't value how my images make people feel until recently. How weird is that? I've always valued the ways images make me feel, but couldn't see the connection. Now that I'm aware, it has really changed the way that I compose and edit.

In a previous life I was a performing songwriter, recorded an album and played-out regularly. The idea that I was writing for the perceptions of others was always present, or at least never far from mind. There are times when I wrote things that were primarily cathartic, but I've always viewed music and now photos as a form of communication.

Because of this, I'm far less willing to let an image out into the wild without making sure that it's exactly what I'm trying to say or share.

I've written this year about intentionality and I feel that this fits right into that groove. I encourage you to think about your art and work and make sure that whatever you put out there is exactly what you are trying to say.